Big Lead Sports Bar


Pirates Interview 2007 AL Manager of the Year Eric Wedge

Eric Wedge played in 39 games as a Major League catcher from 1991-94, and managed in 1,134 more over seven seasons with the Cleveland Indians, winning AL Manager of the Year in 2007. Today, he interviewed in Pittsburgh for the thankless job of Pirates manager. Is it a fantastic entry point for a team on the rise or is Wedge just a glutton for punishment?

That's a question we could have answered very soon if the Pirates act quickly to replace John Russell, and Wedge could be a perfect fit. He worked with Neal Huntington while their careers overlapped in Cleveland, taking the Tribe to the AL Championship Series in 2007. And we know how Huntington treasures those Cleveland ties.

The Indians finished on the plus side of .500 twice in Wedge's seven seasons, and sadly, that would be a massive upgrade over the last seven seasons we've endured as Pirate fans. Wedge's '07 team was his high-water mark, going 96-66 in leading a team that featured two 19-game winners (CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona), a young Cliff Lee, and five players with 20+ home runs (Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner, and Ryan Garko). I'm sure the Pirates would've had a lot better record with that kind of productivity, which naturally makes one wonder how much of it Wedge should get credited for. But the issue of "manager worth" will always be an issue (good or bad), regardless of the team being discussed.

While the Pirates and Wedge feel each other out, the team has also reached out to 16-year MLB veteran Juan Samuel, according to Chuck Finder. Samuel most recently spent 2010 as Baltimore's interim manager, going 17-34 before turning the team over to Buck Showalter, who finished an astounding (and I'm not being sarcastic) 34-23 the rest of the way. 

A three-time All-Star during his playing days, Samuel has coached in different capacities since his retirement, including seven seasons as a base coach in Detroit, one as manager of the Binghamton Mets, and four more with the Orioles. Samuel declined a return to his third base coaching job when Showalter took over and opted instead for a gig as an evaluator for Baltimore's Dominican Republic academy. He also has a son named Samuel Samuel, which may or may not put him over the top with Coonelly and Co. but scores ample comedic points with me.

It's believed that the Pirates will probably move quickly to land their first choice, whoever it may be, due to the various opening of similar (and possibly more attractive) job opportunities around the league. So don't be surprised if a new boss is hired in the very near future.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc):


Dom Errico said...

I think Eric Wedge actually makes a lot of sense. He's got a track record of managing a young team to the playoffs in Cleveland.

He's also experienced that magical phenomenon known as a winning season.

He also has experience in knowing what to do when management trades off your superstars for younger (affordable) talent.

The Mad Bubbler said...

The Succos firing Russel and replacing him with someone else is basically the same as Kim Jong-Il retiring and being replaced with Kim Jong-un. They both work under a shady regime and their goals will not change: line your pockets while making life miserable for the people who live in your area. And just like there's some nutcases in North Korea that think everything's hunky dory, there are nutcases in this city that think that Nutting is trying to win.

Looking forward to discussing this in 3-4 years when the Succos trade off Walker/Alvarez etc and are getting ready to re-hire another GM/Manager/bla bla bla bla

jerrykid said...

Although we all must acknowledge that the Buccos will still be losers next year, I think Don's "manager worth" term is something to note. Showalter orchestrated a complete turnaround this season (in the best division in baseball), with the worst team, talent-wise, in that division. Last year former hated Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy did the same kind of thing with the Rockies after taking over for Clint Hurdle(granted the Colorado had some talent). John Russell had a losing record at the AAA level before his tenure here. It makes you wonder how competent the front office is in the first place, if you are going to hire a guy like this. Yeah, our team stinks, but were we getting the most out of them? Personally, i think Lloyd Mcclendon did better with worse talent. Maybe with a good manager were looking at 90 losses. Id be happy next year if we had a manager that had the ability to take us from "sucking really really bad" to just "sucking". Especially with our Pitching, take that 5.00 team ERA and turn it into a 4.00, perhaps that gets us 10 to 15 more wins. Easier said than done though, thats for sure

Dom Errico said...

Here's how I look at the Pirates. They played close to .500 baseball at home. Not great, but not total crap either.

They were god awful on the road. Many games they didn't even look like they were in the game. To me that's a reflection of the ho-hum attitude of the now dearly departed John Russell.

If Showalter can come in and turn around the Orioles to finish strong, maybe we can have a similar story happen here.

Don't get me wrong this team is still a year or so away from truly being ready to even think about contending, but we're getting there.

Unknown said...

Really? I don't think we'll contend within the next 5 years. We have had a historically bad season, and any talent we get we are still trading off for unproven young talent. I may be underinformed, I admit. I haven't watched since they broke my heart with the baseball strike. But I've followed, and I see no serious effort. As a professed expatriat, I think you might see a .500 season in three years, with good management.

jerrykid said...

The typical "ahh they'll just trade all our good players away again" line is typical of most uninformed Pirates detractors. What talent do you speak of that we have traded away? Steps are being made here in the right direction. We are finally drafting top level talent, and signing them. We have a solid group of young hitters that pitchers cant just pitch around anymore. Our cant get any worse right? Call me drunk but 70 wins next year, you heard it here first.

brian said...

Tribe fans description of Wedge makes him sound similar to JR strategically. His teams were station to station on the bases, loved playing role player vets (i.e. JR running Church out there constantly) but will work with young players if that's what he's got and has set roles for the bullpen.
His players will play hard for him and he has the "intensity and fire" in the dugout which will appease the fans that feel that makes a difference.

If it is Wedge (or anyone else really), I'm not sure how much of a difference he'll make in the W-L column. It's ultimately up to the talent on the field to get it done. At least 2011 should have a more stable roster than this year's team, player's roles will be defined and another season of experience will lead to some improvement.

okel dokel said...

"due to the various opening of similar (and possibly more attractive) job opportunities around the league."

Is there a less attractive managerial job than the Pirates in MLB?

Steve said...

okel - Agreed, but then again, it's not like there's any real pressure to win here. When jsut playing .500 used to be the pathetic goal, now Pirates fans seem to be happy if they can simply avoid 100 losses. A fluke winning season or something even approaching that will get a manager free steak and bj's for life from most hardcore Pirates fans. It's probably worth the embarrasement for any potential manager with less then lofty goals. You know, a perfect fit for a team that has the same kind of expectations from its ownership and fans.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

@okel - i think the 'possibly more attractive' part is meant to include base/bench/pitching/hitting/fielding/etc... coaches.

I don't know enough about the candidates (or care to), but the buccos need someone who can help develop our young talent and keep the team from making boneheaded "baseball 101" mistakes ALL THE FREAKING TIME! If the new coach can limit ridiculous baserunning mistakes, and help knock down some of the errors it'll be a good hire.

Nate said...

"We have had a historically bad season"

The Rays lost 96 games in 2007, then went to the World Series in 2008. The Padres lost 99 in 2008, 87 in 2009, then won 90 this year. The Reds lost 84 in 2009 and won the NL Central this year.

Aside from the Rays, none of those teams were as ridiculously bad as the Pirates were this year, but the point is that rebuilding teams rarely rebuild in linear fashion. It's not a series of small steps from under .500 to winning season to playoffs. It's usually a big leap from "bad team" to "playoff team" in a year after a team's prospects make it to the Majors.